Despite beginning the season with limited varsity experience, the Tree of Life Christian School boys basketball team emerged as an area contender in Division IV.
The Trojans finished 15-8 overall and 5-2 in the MOCAL. Seeded eighth in the district tournament, they lost to top-seeded Harvest Prep 62-41 in a semifinal March 3 at Reynoldsburg.
"Coming into the season, we had about 12 points a game coming back combined, and to end up going 15-8 with a bunch of guys that were just getting their feet under them is overall pretty good," coach Joe Arndt said. "We have some pretty solid guys returning next year."
Harvest Prep went on to win district and regional titles, advancing to a state semifinal Thursday, March 20, against Louisville Aquinas.
"The first thing we told (our players) after the (district semifinal) was we would much rather come into our locker room with our guys than go into the other locker room because we know that we do things right," Arndt said. "We appreciate how hard they work and their great attitudes."
Tree of Life had a first-round bye in the tournament before defeating 13th-seeded Morral Ridgedale 73-57 in the second round Feb. 26 at home.
The Trojans lost their top four scorers from last season to graduation and returned just three players with extensive varsity experience in senior wing player Walter Woodard, junior point guard Melvin Shuler and junior guard Carl Jones.
Shuler led the team in scoring, averaging 13 points, followed by junior wing player/post player Kurtis Goines at 11.3 points. Jones and junior wing player Randell Perkins each averaged nine points and Woodard averaged 8.4.
Goines led the team in rebounding, averaging seven per game.
Shuler was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Goines was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and Jones was honorable mention all-league.
Post players Simms Boateng and Cody Calland were the other seniors.
"We had three seniors, but two of them -- Simms Boateng and Cody Calland -- never played basketball until they were juniors," Arndt said. "Walter was the only senior we had that had any kind of varsity experience. Walter is a good kid. He's always worked hard."
Others eligible to return are junior Sam Ruark (post player/wing player) and sophomores Jordan Green (post player) and James Ugland (wing player).
"We try to be good mentors to them," Arndt said. "We get on them, but they know we love them. We try to make it fun."
Tree of Life finished second in the MOCAL behind Gahanna Christian (8-0) and ahead of Granville Christian (2-5), Madison Christian (2-6) and Delaware Christian (2-6). Tree of Life and Granville Christian did not make up their second league game because it had no bearing on the final standings.
Girls team finds leader in King
The girls basketball team was led by sophomore point guard Megan King, who was first-team all-league, second-team all-district and special mention all-state.
She averaged a team-best 16.7 points.
"Megan is a sophomore and she averaged almost 17 points a game," coach Steve Cawley said. "She hasn't even tapped into all of her potential. She is going to continue to get better, so we're excited about her. You not only have your scorer coming back, but she's your point guard, so you know who's going to be handling the ball for you."
Tree of Life finished 10-12 overall, losing at ninth-seeded Delaware Christian 49-46 in the first round of the district tournament Feb. 19. The Trojans were seeded 10th.
Senior wing player Morgan Pennington averaged 10.2 points and was first-team all-league.
Senior guard Kasey Ticknor averaged a team-high nine rebounds and was honorable mention all-district and all-league.
Other seniors were Mary Honaker (post player) and Kierra Sanders (wing player).
"It's always hard to see seniors classes walk out the door and it's just as hard to see this senior class walk out the door, too," Cawley said. "Kasey was a three-year starter. I've never seen a young lady affect a ballgame as much as she does in so many ways without really scoring that much. She had potential to score, but she excelled at so many other things."
Cawley expects junior wing player Monica Badea to be a key contributor next season. She missed this season after undergoing surgery on her right ACL last summer.
"We're really excited to have Monica coming back next year," Cawley said. "This season would have turned out differently wins and losses if she would have been healthy, but she wasn't."
Others eligible to return are sophomores Diamond Davis (guard), Melanie Tipton (guard) and Taryn Allen (post player) and freshman Emily Fenstermaker (post player).
The Trojans went 3-3 in the MOCAL to finish third behind Granville Christian (5-1) and Delaware Christian (4-2) and ahead of Madison Christian (0-6).